There was a large and representative gathering at the funeral of Monsignor John P Caulfield, Pastor Emeritus of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Lakeland, Florida, which took place in Claregalway Church last week. The remains of the Kiltrogue native arrived from Lakeland, Orlando in Florida accompanied by Most Rev Dr John Noonan, Bishop of Orlando, where he had given a lifetime of service. Bishop John Noonan, officiated at the con-celebration of Requiem Mass at the Church of the Assumption and St James, Claregalway. Fr John’s cousins Fr Richie Higgins and Fr Michael Molloy, with two of his classmates Monsignor Lory Kehoe and Fr Peter Beglan, Monsignor Malachy Hallanan, Vicar General, Galway, Fr Ian O’Neill, PP Claregalway, Fr Des Walsh, PP Lackagh and Fr Nicholas King, Orlando Diocese, joined in the celebration. Present also were other visiting priests Monsignor Sean Flaherty, Fr Michael McLoughlin, Fr Michael Kelly, Fr J J Cribbin, Fr Des Quinn, Fr John Dunleavy, Fr Gussie O’Brien, Fr Frank Larkin, Fr Peter Quinn, Fr John D Flannery, Fr Fergal Cunnane, Fr Padraig O’Connor, Fr Christy O’Connor, Fr Paddy Mullins, Fr Sean Manning, Fr Toby Bluett, Fr Michael Farrell, Fr Richard Hayes, Fr Patrick Cushen, Fr Jim Furlong, Fr Gary Bluett, Fr Robert Nolan and Fr Hugh O’Byrne.
It was a fitting tribute to Fr. John who had died peacefully after a short illness. The parish of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Lakeland, Florida paid their own tribute to Fr. John where the Bishop of Orlando officiated at a con-celebration of Requiem Mass at St Joseph’s Church, with Fr Richard Walsh, Vicar General, Diocese of Orlando, Fr Charles Viviano, Dean Western Deanery, Fr Ramon Bolatete, Pastor, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Lakeland, Fr Val Sheedy, Pastor, Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, Ocala, Fr Joseph Laboon and priests of the Diocese of Orlando.
Fr John as he was known as was born in the village of Kiltrogue in the parish of Claregalway to Thomas Caulfield and Margaret Sheridan. Educated at Cregmore National School and St Mary’s College, Galway, he studied for the priesthood at St. Peter’s College in Wexford and was ordained May 31st 1959, for the Diocese of St. Augustine. His first appointment in 1959 was at St. John Vianney Parish in Orlando. The Diocese of Orlando was formed in June 1968 and Fr John served in a number of parishes thereafter where he found himself immersed in teaching and school administration for the next ten years, mainly at Bishop Moore High School in Orlando, and then at Father Lopez High School in Daytona Beach. To further his education, he earned a Master of Arts in the Classics (both Greek and Latin) degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C in 1962. He was fluent and literate in many languages.
In 1965 he became pastor of Epiphany Parish in Port Orange, then Blessed Trinity Parish in Orlando a year later. In 1972, he was appointed to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Melbourne. In 1984, he assumed his role as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Lakeland. Fr. John immediately immersed himself in the parish, the school life and the Lakeland community. The success of St. Joseph’s Academy was of paramount importance to him. The children of the parish, and indeed the entire community, held a special place in his generous heart. He spearheaded the creation of the St. Joseph’s School Foundation to assure the future of the school and the ability to always include students who could otherwise not attend with scholarships.
Fr John was much loved in Lakeland and will be remembered for his sincere, gentle nature, and his loving smile and laugh. He quietly ministered to hundreds of those in prison bringing consolation and word of God’s mercy to those so difficult to console. He possessed a special gift of bringing comfort to the homebound and the sick and dying and their families. It was not unusual for him to make several visits to the hospital every day to visit the sick and their families.
In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI conferred upon him the title Monsignor for his long and distinguished service to the Diocese of Orlando. Although honoured with this much merited title, Fr John always considered himself a simple priest and servant of God to his people.
Fr John looked forward to his trips to Ireland and extended visits with his family he loved so much. On his visits to Ireland Fr Johnny would visit many relations and friends. He always had a keen interest in the fortunes of Turloughmore hurling club where he himself was a prominent member in his early years. He loved sport and golf became a passion that brought him friendships as well as relaxation with his friends and parishioners.
When Fr. John retired two years ago, the community of Lakeland honoured his 52 years of priesthood with a parish celebration with over 800 guests, and even the local sheriff came to honour this humble man. Even after his retirement, Fr. John continued to live in the parish of St. Joseph where he continued to serve those who loved him and sought his guidance and presence.
The remains of Monsignor Caulfield lay in repose at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church before the Requiem Mass in Orlando. On arrival in Ireland his remains were reposing at Síoraíocht in Claregalway before removal to the Church of the Assumption and St James, Claregalway where his remains were received by Fr Ian O’Nell, PP Claregalway. Following the prayers his life long friend Cody Lowry who had travelled to Ireland many times with Fr John from Lakeland, spoke of the wonderful work that Fr. John had carried out in his adopted homeland. On the following day, the Church of the Assumption and St James, Claregalway was packed for Fr John’s con-celebrated Requiem Mass, burial took place beside his grandparents inside the ancient walls of St Colmkille’s Church, in Lackagh old Cemetery. May he rest in peace alongside his family and friends that he loved so well.
Monsignor John P. Caulfield is survived by his brothers Joe (Glasgow), Paddy (Kiltrogue) and Matt (Melbourne Beach, Florida), sisters Eileen Connelly (Knock, Milltown) and Sister Mary Caulfield (Presentation Convent Portlaoise), in-laws, nephews, nieces, Bishop, priests and people of the diocese of Orlando and St Joseph’s Parish, Lakeland, relatives and many friends.